I am not [whatever] enough.
I've had arm, back, shoulder and neck pain for a long time. It comes and goes with different intensity and in different spots but essentially I've been struggling with muscle soreness and limited use of my upper body for 14 years.
It's a pain and I hate it. (And yes, the pun is entirely intended.)
When it all started, I lived for a year with chronic pain in my forearms and hands. It disabled me from looking after my new baby the way I wanted to and limited my daily household activities. I had a variety of treatments; most were completely unsucessful, all were essentially useless. And by the end of the year, I was reaching a stage where I believed I would probably just have to cope with the pain.
It wasn't a happy prospect.
For some reason I came across Dr John Sarno, whose argument that often unexplained body pain is related to suppressed emotional pressures. At the beginning of the year I probably would have dismissed it. By the end of the year I was ready to try anything.
The 'treatment' he suggested was simply to think about the things I'd didn't want to think about. The emotional pressures that were on me, or that I put on myself, no matter how big or small, serious or silly. If I tended to avoid thinking about them, I had to bring them to the forefront of my mind. Even write them down.
It sounded easy enough. I didn't have to deal with the issues, just think about them for half an hour a day.
So I started. Every morning I'd spend 20 minutes writing a list of things I found hard or feared or worried about or didn't want to face.
After a month my pain had gone*. Pretty much permanently. If I felt it again at any point in the next few years all I had to do was ask myself, "What am I suppressing?" and the pain would disappear.
The pain I've had in the last few years has been different. It's been in the shoulders, back and neck and it's disabled me from writing and using my computer. (Yes, I know it looks like I'm on here all the time, but the reality is that I have to curtail my time and I often work through pain. Right now my arms are aching and my tendons are sore.) It also has limited any craft or handwork that I do. I completely gave up knitting, which I loved.
I've assumed it wasn't the same kind of pain as the arm pain. I've assumed it's had a solely physical, mechanical cause. I've assumed that massage or ergonomics or better work practices or weaning my baby would fix it.
And yes, to a certain extent all those things have helped.
But I'm now at a point where I think I have to look more broadly at my pain. Why can other people work this way, but not me? How can the ladies in the craft group here knit for hours without any sort of permanent injury?
I decided this week to look again at the emotional suppression theory and for the last three days I've spent 20 minutes writing lists of the things I'd prefer not to think about; the things that stress me out; the things I don't really want to admit to.
At the very least, it doesn't hurt to do some internal sorting out and decluttering, I thought to myself. If it doesn't work, it's not like it won't be useful.
The pain hasn't gone. It's a bit early for that to happen yet. But I've noticed some definite patterns in my list. As I look through it, the same words keep popping out.
I'm not [insert adjective here] enough.
Some of the things I think I'm not enough of include: thin, rich, thin, funny, smart, thin, nice, thin, patient, kind, thin, involved, caring, Christian, friendly.
Some of the things I think I don't do well enough are: writing, publishing, self-promoting (writers have to do this), cooking, parenting, nourishing my children, relationships, cleaning my house, organising, remembering, make-up, grocery shopping, therapy and autism remediation, recycling and being eco-friendly.
Some of the things I don't think I have enough of are: friends, time, interesting clothes, fun, leisure, hobbies, fitness, enthusiasm for teaching Sunday school, care factor about serious issues, energy for saving the world.
And when I look back at this list and see that it pretty much encapsulates every single thing I do or identify myself as in my life.
So I'm walking around every day with a suppressed nagging in my stomach that says, every single minute, 'whatever you're doing, you're not good enough.'
And in my head, I know (just) that it's not true. But obviously there are layers and layers below my brain that don't know it or, perhaps more importantly, don't want to believe it.
Because, you see, if I accepted that I was good enough, then the fear is that I wouldn't ever try to do better because I'd be happy as I was. I'd lower my standards; be a chubby, chocolate licking, TV-watching non-writer with a filthy house and feral children and no real friends because nobody really wants to hang around someone like that, right?
And all of this is kind of annoying because now I have to go and figure stuff out again . I thought I was done sorting out all this perfectionism and disbelief in what God says and inability to accept grace.
I'm definitely hoping that the pain will go away as I think about it all and stop suppressing it but if it doesn't, it won't have been a waste. I'm hoping that I'll have a much richer understanding of what it means to be 'in Christ'. I could go down the route of repeating 'I'm enough' to myself, but I'm not sure that will really help. I know who I am after all. Me being part of Christ, who definitely is enough, well, that's a whole different scenario.
I've had a few wonderful times in my life when I've been able to truly to indulge in God's grace, and not just assent to it as a theoretical concept and I'm sure that bringing it all out to the surface can only open me up to more grace.
I'd love to hear from you: have you dealt with similar things? What's been your journey through these kinds of self-beliefs?
*Please note: I am NOT suggesting that this will cure your chronic pain or that you are stupid if you don't do it. Everyone is different. This did work for me. It may not work for you. In no way do I intend this to be a prescriptive post.